Victoria cannabis club gets third raid, already facing $6.5 million in fines

Members of the B.C. Community Safety Unit raid the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club’s new location on Quadra Street on March 23. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

Officers with B.C.’s Community Safety Unit once again seized product from the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club.

Its new location on Quadra Street in North Park was raided Thursday (March 23) at around 10 a.m., after moving just three weeks ago.

The unlicensed medical cannabis store and founder Ted Smith face almost $6.5 million in fines based on previous enforcement.

“They weren’t even here an hour this time, it was just a hit-and-run,” Smith said. He estimated anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 worth of merchandise was seized in this latest raid.

CSU officers attended the club’s previous 826 Johnson St. location on Nov. 14, 2019, and July 15, 2020, after the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch learned and confirmed there was no provincial licence associated with the address. Cannabis products and club documents were seized on both occasions.

READ MORE: Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, its founder facing total of $6.5 million in fines

After operating at the Johnson Street location for nearly 22 years, the club moved to Quadra Street in late February.

Without the usual backup stash at the new location, Smith said the club has now been left with little choice but to apply for an injunction from the province that would allow his business to operate until he can have a full hearing.

“We’ve been stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare trying to fight the fines that were issued from the first raids, and we haven’t gotten in front of a real judge,” he said. “We’ve literally been in a kangaroo court and now that the club is clearly in jeopardy, we’re going to go for an injunction because we have significant constitutional arguments that have been successful in other courts in other provinces.”

READ MORE: Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club official: Cannabis Act legislative review may threaten medical marijuana program

According to Smith, the club serves about 3,000 members every month – providing medical cannabis to people afflicted by a range of illnesses and conditions, from cancer and chronic pain to epilepsy and arthritis.

Member William Holenchuk was surprised to see the raid taking place when he arrived to pick up medical marijuana for chronic pain from an occupational injury. The 65-year-old said he’s been a regular at the club since obtaining his federal licence 10 years ago.

“This is the only unlicensed facility that I’m aware of,” said Holenchuk. “It’s sad. The stuff from government stores is too expensive and I can’t afford it on my pension.”

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club is the country’s oldest compassion club and has openly sold medical cannabis products since 1996. In January 2020, Victoria city council passed a motion supporting the club’s request for an exemption to the province’s cannabis regulations.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General confirmed that CSU officers were active in the capital March 23, but could not comment further on the raid.

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